Digital lender Branch has announced that it has acquired Century Microfinance Bank.
The development means that Branch is the only lender of its kind that has survived the issues surrounding online lending in Kenya and has made great strides about it so far.
The transaction reveals that Branch now owns 84.89% of the bank, effectively making it the leading owner.
The bank, which focuses on SMEs has two branches in Nairobi’s Moi Avenue and Gikomba.
It has a little over 26K accounts.
Prior to this purchase, Branch says it attempted to acquire other three microfinance banks. When the deals didn’t go through, the lender settled on Century.
The deal was first revealed in a gazette notice that was published on January 3.
“In exercise of the powers comferred by section 19(b) of the Microfinance Act, 2006 the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning exempts Branch International Limited, from the provisions of section 19(1) of the Act for the period of four years from 1st January, 2022 until 31st December, 2025 in connections with the acquisition and direct holding of ordinary shares in Century Microfinance Bank Limited,” read the Kenya Gazette notice.
“This decision was based on years of operations, capital adequacy ratios, strategy in the market and governance structures. The entities are still in the integration process and are yet to come up with a name they will use,” reads a statement from Branch.
“As a fintech, we were only allowed to do one product – microlending. In the space, the amount you can lend is limited because the risks are inherent based on the credit policy you are allowed. After seven years, we felt we can do more and allow customers to borrow more. From basics of banking and through license available from Century, we will be able to offer services to our customers including savings, paying bills and investment,” added Rose Muturi, the Managing Director, Branch East Africa.
Branch has seen its business grow substantially because it, alongside Tala, are among the few lenders that have managed to give customers cash without the burden of abusing their personal data or using underhand tactics in an attempt to recover delayed loans.
The Kenya government has since set into motion a law named the CBK Amendment Bill, 2021 that gags online lenders from abusing user data, among other regulations such as enforcing confidentiality and meeting licensing requirements.